The room was now dark and at first her eyes struggled to see anything at all, but as she got used to the gloom the vague shapes she could see settled into more definite outlines, but fear made her feel dizzy.
And that fear was intensified by the fact that she could see little or nothing of what lay ahead, making her take hesitant steps, and the drifting smoke added an extra element of foreboding and hidden danger. And her senses were being attacked at once; the air thick with a cloying perfume, her ears filled by insistent chords of classical music that resonated from speakers she couldn't see, but which had a bass presence she could feel.
A hand pressed on her shoulder, urging her forward, and she obeyed, conscious of the warm wetness between her legs as her body moved a half pace and stopped.
The floor was soft under her bare feet, deep dark carpet with a complex pattern of white lines crisscrossing each other inside a circle; it could have been writing, but Susie couldn't make any sense of it. And anyway, she was too preoccupied with what else was happening. Now her eyes had grown used to the gloom she could see a group of figures standing in a semicircle around a large table, which had been draped in black cloth and placed in the centre of the room - and the centre of the pattern, which she could now see was circular. In the corners were four small tables, upon each of which burned a tall black candle.
With increasing anxiety she felt like she was in a scene from a horror film, and she was the dozy innocent girl who walked naively into the heart of it all while the audience willed her to turn and run before it was too late. But Susie knew it was already too late, and there was no escape from whatever lay ahead.
'Go on, then.' Hugh's hissed instruction together with a sharp prod between her shoulders actually restored an element of normality. Knowing he was still there, still the grubby little mortal she knew and disliked made her feel safer and better somehow, as she did as he said and took another tentative step.
The figures around her were all men, she judged from their size and the loom of their outlines as she drew nearer, facing them across the table. All were draped in dark robes with hoods, like macabre, medieval monks, and with another clutch of fear she saw that Hugh was also dressed like that, meaning he was much more a part of it all than she realised, as her shimmering veil of transparent white made her stand out amongst them like a beacon.
With her eyes gradually becoming more accustomed to the dim light she could see more detail, although the faces of the men around her were hidden in the shadows of their hoods. In front of her, above the table, a single picture hung on the wall, a complex arrangement of an animal head inside a pattern similar to that on the floor, but even as a student of Sunday newspaper Satanism, Susie failed completely to recognise it, or understand its significance in the setting.
One man, who she assumed to be him with the silver hair, took up a position in front of the table, midway from either end. Another stood nearby while everyone else gathered around in a semicircle, leaving just Susie and Hugh alone in the middle of the room.
'It is time,' he said. 'Are you prepared?'
'I am prepared, master,' replied Hugh in a monotone, and stepped forward. The second man, who seemed to have assumed the role of assistant, picked something from a table crowded with objects large and small, and silently passed it to the man Hugh had addressed as 'master'. He in turn handed it gravely to Hugh, and as it glinted in the candlelight Susie saw with real horror that it was a knife. And the horror increased as Hugh turned towards her, raising his arms, and for a moment she thought...
As the scream formed soundlessly in lungs paralysed with fear, Hugh pushed back one baggy sleeve and extended a naked forearm. From assistant to the master came a large silver chalice, held out beneath Hugh's outstretched arm.
In a shaky voice at first, but with growing confidence, Hugh began to speak. 'I renounce Christ,' he said quietly. 'I give myself to the Prince of Darkness.'
Then, with a quick slash that made Susie gasp and flinch as though she felt it physically, he cut himself on the soft inside of his arm and let the blood dribble into the cup the master was holding for him.
Susie whimpered in anxious terror, but the quiet chanting drowned the sound. Behind her and all around her in the darkness the other men were muttering the same rhythmic words. Holding the chalice of Hugh's blood high in one hand and Hugh's bleeding wrist in the other, the master stepped forward.
'Tonight we celebrate a new member into our fold,' he announced, 'a new soldier for our master. Hail Satan!'
From all around her came answering calls. 'Hail Satan!' the men chanted together. 'Hail Satan!'
Susie was petrified, too scared to shout, scream, or flee. Frozen to the spot she awaited the next development with increasing disbelief, because the master had turned to her and she knew that whatever he - they - had planned for her, this was the moment they'd planned it for.
He took her arm and repositioned her slightly, facing the semicircle of hooded figures. One of them she knew was Hugh, and the surge of anger she felt towards him as she imagined his self-satisfied smugness somehow made her feel better by introducing an element of normality. After all, this was just another one of Hugh's games to get her knickers off, and she reminded herself with relief that if Hugh was involved in the planning then the worst that would happen was that she'd have to let the group of weirdoes take it in turns. So everything was going to be okay. She was ready for them now.
As she did a swift check around the room she counted thirteen, which made a sort of sense, she supposed, in black magic terms.
'Oh,' she gasped, as the master made a gesture and they crowded around closer, taking her arms and then fastening straps around her wrists and ankles, which were connected to ropes fixed to the floor and ceiling, so that as they were steadily pulled her body was drawn into a star shape, arms and legs wide apart, forming a human cross in the centre of the dank room. And when she was tightly secured they shuffled back into the shadows a little, leaving her with only the hideous image glaring down from the wall above the table. Horns, long tail, hind legs with hooves, he was the archetypal image of the devil with which schoolchildren and horror movie buffs are familiar. Her eyes were drawn to the huge erection that speared from his woolly groin - long, curved and gnarled with veins.
A movement caught her eye and provided a distraction from that chain of thought that at first she thought was welcome. The master's assistant had begun arranging things on the table and she strained to see what he was doing - and then wished she hadn't.
In a neat row he had placed several strange objects: the large silver chalice, the wicked knife, a stick of incense ready for burning, an unlit black candle, a small bowl of water and another that seemed to contain earth or sand. And finally, a tall stout object that she recognised at once. Black and shiny with a proud head, thick veins and a broad girth that grew wider towards its base, it was an alarming copy of the phallus that sprouted from the groin of the man-goat in the image on the wall before her.
With a mixture of fear and arousal simmering between her thighs, Susie knew at once who it was for, and she was horrified to find herself circling slowly, her hips rotating as reflexes tensed the muscles in her thighs and buttocks as if it was already there, touching her, spreading, entering...
Then the ringing of a hand bell broke the spell. It was held by one of the dark figures, moving into each corner of the room and ringing it briefly before moving on. Then he moved to the table and rang it in front of the picture before placing it with the other items and turning away, melting again into the shadows.
The master nodded to the unseen men grouped behind Susie, and immediately she felt the touch of their hands on her shoulders; hands that knew how the diaphanous veil unfastened, and suddenly the misty white cloud of delicate material was gone, and she stood naked but for her white knickers.
Now the master pointed to the knife behind him on the table, and the assistant handed it to him. Turning his back on Susie and unaware of the sudden sigh of relief that made her shudder, he pointed with the sharp tip towards the picture of the man-goat and spoke. 'In nomine Dei nostri Satanas Luciferi excelsi!' he shouted and Susie jumped, startled not by the words or the unexpected volume but just because no one else had spoken for so long she'd grown accustomed to the silence.
A shadowy figure detached itself from the group that gathered in the darkness behind her and stepped forward to the table, and the assistant handed him something which Susie didn't see or recognise until the figure turned towards her, holding a short-handled scourge in his right hand, countless leather fronds dangling from the shaft. He then drifted out of her field of vision, making her desperately turn her head from side to side in a vain attempt to keep her eye on him.
'In the name of Satan, the Ruler of the earth, the King of the world, I command the forces of Darkness to bestow their Infernal power upon me!' The voice came from behind her, and was followed, as she knew it would be, by the hiss of the leather fronds whistling through the air before they landed with a crack! across her bottom, making her gasp and wince.